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One Footnote (or Maybe Two)

I have lots of the automatic Heuers (with Cal 11, Cal 12, Cal 14 and Cal 15), and they have all been very reliable once they are properly serviced. A couple of years ago, I decided that I needed an El Primero, just to see what all the fuss is about with this legendary movement.

Perhaps it was the curse of the Heuer gods, but this old El Primero has spent 10 or 15 days on my wrist and 10 or 15 months with watchmakers. I did not have the details of the service history when I bought it, and it crapped out immediately upon arrival. So it spent some months back with the seller's watchmaker; then, after crapping out again, some months with the watchmaker that I chose to work on it; then, after crapping out a third time, more months back at this watchmaker's. I had it overhauled by a very reputable, nationally-recognized Zenith watchmaker, but he still struggled with this one. Maybe all this trouble and expense was my punishment for straying from the Heuers.

The only point of this message is to point out that this is a very intricate, demanding movement, and you will need a skilled, experienced watchmaker should it require service. Also, you may want to be more cautious than usual with the pre-purchase questions / inspection.

Thanks for your message. This type of message brings some variety to the Forum.



: Advice/Information on 1978 Zenith El P.
: Please. Posted By: Graham Boulter Date:
: 7/15/04 20:19 GMT

: Hi Guy's,

: I was wondering if I could possibly pick your
: collective brain's! Sure! Why not... You
: might have to look around a little bit to
: find them!

: I am thinking about a slight departure from
: the usual Heuer theme. I have always liked
: the design of the 1978 Zenith (Movado too),
: El Primero Chrono. -I am sure you know the
: one, BIG and Square. Hmmm... One of
: these?


: All I know is that they are usually found
: with a blue dial, and that around 50 had
: Black dial's. -That is it!! (Not really a
: lot to go on!) I've never heard of a
: Black Dial, The one pictured above is, well,
: mine. Had it for about five years. And I
: don't think they made too many of the Blue
: Dial models either.

: May I ask you where you heard of the Black Dial
: model?

: So, before I go hunting for one, I would love
: some more information if anyone can help?

: Does anyone know how good the movement is?
: Zenith El-Primero? Are you kidding?
: Probably one of the most sophisticated,
: elegant and lusted after movements ever
: made. They probably aren't as rugged as a
: Lemania 5100 or c.2310 (Omega c.321) or
: c.1873 (Omega c.861), but what the heck is?

: What they are like to live with? Well,
: this one definately has that late 1970's
: disco-era wretched excess vibe going for it.
: This is a circa 1978 model... People start
: singing "Funkytown" when they see
: it, but it's a very cool watch in the
: wearing.

: Problem's? The only thing with the
: El-Primero's is that since they are an
: Uber-High beat movement (36,000) they
: require a special oil for lubrication.
: However there is an extensive Zenith service
: center network so it's not really a big
: deal.

: Parts avalibility? Bracelet links and
: bracelet parts are tough, but I suspect
: movement parts are not a big problem. I
: haven't sought out dials, hands or date
: wheels though.

: History of the model? The El-Primero
: movement was among the first automatic
: chronographs brought to the market. There
: was a three way race and depending on where
: one puts the finish line, what your
: predjudices are, and who you talk to you can
: come up with three different winners of the
: race. The Heuer-Breitling-Hamilton-Buren
: consortium produced the c.11 Chrono-Matic.

: Seiko produced their own In-House
: 2-register movement (used famously in their
: Bullhead models).

: And Zenith produced the El-Primero. Which was
: the only Full-Rotor (the Chrono-Matic
: utilized a micro-rotor) 3-register model.
: Perhaps tellingly, the Zenith is the only
: one still in production to this day
: (although production ceased for a couple of
: years and the tooling was ordered destroyed,
: but employee's hid it from their corporate
: masters.

: The Values? Believe it or not I paid $850
: for mine nearly 5 years ago. Today I would
: expect to pay a minimum of $1,500 and
: probably significantly more.

: Up until recently Zenith was not available in
: the USA, and as a result the only way to get
: one was to import it oneself. As a result
: their prices were low (comparably). About
: two and a half years ago Zenith entered the
: US market again and nearly doubled their
: MSRP on their current models. Rolex had
: stopped using them for the Daytona's and
: Zenith figured if Rolex can get $6300~6500
: for a new Stainless Steel Daytona powered by
: a El-Primero, they could ask at least $5,000
: (when they had been asking about $2,500 for
: similar models). So they increased their
: prices and as a result vintage prices jumped
: as well.

: Rarity? Most of the old Zenith's were not
: produced in large numbers, a production run
: of 5,000 was probably fairly commonplace, as
: it's possible that many models only
: justified a production run of less than
: 1,000.

: The Blue Dial Square El-Primero is certainly
: not a commonly seen watch.

: -Really anything and everything about the
: model! Hopefully this is enough to get
: you started. There are a couple of Zenith
: Forum's where they know more (and probably
: have better information than I do), one is
: over at TimeZone and the other is at
: Watch-U-Seek, tell 'em I/we sent ya!

: I have had a Speedie 125 in the past, is the
: Zenith's size comparable? Probably as
: wide or maybe a little wider. Thinner and
: sits lower on your wrist. And definately
: lighter.

: I would be very grateful for any information/
: owners view's. You have them.

: Thank you all, yet again!

: Best Wishes,

: Graham.. Not a problem, you're welcome!

: Good Hunting!

: -- Chuck


: Chuck Maddox


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: ” Chronographs, like many things in
: life, only improve with age… ”

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